Hello! I am looking for some advice after falling victim for a pet-sitting scam (Vermont, US).
I apologize if this is the wrong place to post.
On May 7, I accepted a dog-sitting job. I was super excited since the pay was fairly high ($30/hr), and I love taking care of animals. They emailed me my first week’s pay of $450; however, they sent me an additional $2000 to wire to their “pet supplier.” I know this should have been a huge red-flag, but I unfortunately gave them the benefit of the doubt (I have had other pet-sitting gigs with similar set-ups, albeit, I met these clients in person). These folks were moving from Canada to our little shire, and had a baby on the way (not an important detail, but it fed into my gullibility). They were hoping to move to our town by mid-May, but because of COVID-19, their move was delayed to the end of May. Hence, they wanted me to receive their pet-supplies, just in case they did not arrive in time.
As you can guess, I deposited the check (via my banking app) and wired the money as directed via Zelle. Because the wire worked, I believed that they were trustworthy. I also sent them receipts/screenshots in order to confirm the deposit and the transfer.
On May 11, they sent me an additional check for the same amount ($2450), which I stupidly deposited (I believed their story of needing dog pens, like the fool I am). Of course, my bank account was put on hold (meaning I am unable to make withdrawals, deposits, etc) and investigated. At this point, I was mainly worried for my employers, because the hold was causing stress for the “expecting mother”, who was instructing me. I really wanted to prove that I was trustworthy, so I assured her that I would keep them updated with the hold and would transfer the funds as soon as they were available.
On May 13, the checks were found to be fabricated (it read “the paying bank returned the check unpaid because the item was altered”). Duly, both deposits were rescinded. My bank also charged me a return fee for each check.
I now have a balance of negative 2500 dollars. I called the bank to ask how I should proceed, and they told me that they cannot help me in any way. Because of this fradulent activity, they will close my bank account in the next four days. They also need me to pay off the negative balance on my account… which I do not know how to do, since I am unable to make electronic deposits and the closest branch is in another state– I cannot drive. I am also unable to recover the funds I sent through Zelle (they are not liable for fraudulant activities).
Yes– I know. I am an idiot. I am a fool. And most of all, I am broke, moronic, dimwit who “rationalized” every single glaring red flag that came my way. I am more ashamed and disappointed in myself than I am angry at this point. In fact, before posting here, I found that this scam is quite common. Except unlike all the other pet-sitters who justifably asked if this “job” was a scam beforehand, I fell for it.
So I need to ask: is there anything I can do? Is there anything I should do? Should I bring this to a lawyer or private investigator? Can I file for fraud? Are there better questions I can be asking the bank?
Much to my chagrin, should I accept this as an expensive life lesson?
If this helps, here is some of the information we exchanged:
I have given them my name, address, age, phone number, receipts/screenshots, and email (gmail).
I have their phone number, email, Zelle number, CashApp username, and the email of their “financial clerk” who sent me the checks in the first place. While we initally communicated via email, my “employers” preferred to communicate via text. However, I would not be surprised if these accounts were not linked in any way to their actual person(s). I also have the email of their “niece” who was an alumna of the college at which my mom is employed (my mother is the one who forwarded me this job opportunity).
They know that my account is on hold; they MIGHT not know that I have fully realized their scheme.
My evidence? It’s slim. They have texted me 1-2 times a day asking for updates on the hold. For each of my replies, I have assured them that I would send their funds to them no matter what (I offered to send them back their check by May 21, the day after the hold is lifted (my initial misinterpretation before calling the bank)).
They do not know that my account will likely be closed. Maybe they are trying to squeeze a little more out of me? Do I have a chance to reverse this?
For now, I am going to call the bank again to see if I can get any more advice/information, since the first person I spoke to was a bit unclear.
I would really appreciate any help or advice on this matter. I will happily clarify anything in this message. I tried to be concise with the information for privacy reasons, but I will add more details if necessary. I am also willing to share the emails and text messages if required/permitted.
I can also share the list of red flags, which is steadly growing the more I think about what just transpired.
Again, thank you so much for any help/advice. I really, really appreciate it.